Visiting Hydra: Leonard Cohen’s Bohemian Idyll

A pilgrimage to the idyllic Greek island where the singer once lived and loved

Christopher P Jones
17 min readNov 4, 2018


Hydra town

In the early afternoon we reached Hydra. That day, as we stepped from the ferry that deposited us on the harbour front, it was possible to believe we had stepped into a paradise. The great swathe of blue sky above us was high and fine, and the light that poured down into this attractive hollow was of such exhilarating strength that every stone and sail flared great gusts of pearl, peach and white. The geography of the harbour — a horseshoe bowl overlooked by villas of irregular size and shape — became apparent to me now. Its voluminous dimensions gave it a beneficent feel; a certain sharpness in the air allowed me to see how open the land was to the sea and sky.

A silent ridge rising from the sea, the Greek island sits on the fringes of the Saronic Gulf, just a few dozen miles adrift from the Peloponnese coast. Depending on the veils of mist and sun that rise and fall and spiral over the island, the diminutive mountains along its spine glow yellow from their dry grasses or opal-grey under the umbra of the sky.

The main town has undergone an extensive reconditioning since the 1950s, when, I have read, only half the residences were occupied and many others lay in a ruined state. The…